Leeds International Film Festival has grown and grown over the years to become something quite remarkable. They’ve shown plenty of Japanese films before, but this year they had something special in store for anime lovers.
Teaming up with Thought Bubble festival, this year anime become one of their highly regarded ‘Fanomenon’ days with a total of 6 films being shown. You could buy a ticket for individual screenings, or for the more than reasonable price of £25 (£20 for concessions).
If you’ve seen any of the films mentioned here I’d love to hear what you thought of them in the comments
First up was a double bill of shorts. Garden of Words / HAL
Garden of Words at first glance is a slow burning love story, but is actually a short tale about learning to overcome hardships when you have a shoulder to lean on. It doesn’t need to be someone you know, or even someone the same age, just somebody you can share something with. Regardless of the story, the animation was first rate, much of it being set on rainy days and the water effects looking photorealistic at points. What really made it however was the score; much of the music is a solo piano with occasional violin sonata accompaniment and when these elements were mixed with the gentle moving narrative, it made a fantastic short.
Hal didn’t grab my attention quite so much. A humanoid is sent to look after the girlfriend of a guy that died in a plane crash. She doesn’t accept him and he starts to complete her wishes to try and bring her around. It’s quirky, charming and well presented, but not something I’d consider a must see.
The second showing of the day was Sakasama no Patema (Patema Inverted). The first big release due from new distributor Anime Ltd. and being shown only a couple of weeks after it’s official release in Japan.
Patema Inverted is a simple concept. A girl living underground falls down a hole and ends up on the surface, but hanging on for her life as she is falling into the sky. On the surface, a strange Big Brother society exists where it’s taught that in the past, sinners ‘fell’ into the sky and a strict dictatorship makes sure nobody wants to pay too much attention to the sky. I won’t give too much away but she makes friends with a boy, they get found out, other people form underground come looking, twists and adventure ensue and it’s an enjoyable story with enough going on to keep your attention the whole way through. What makes Patema special is the attention to detail in how the inverted worlds interact. Seeing items fall up to the ceiling, while everyone else is still the right way up and the way gravity affects the characters as they hold onto each other never gets old.
Third on the bill was Steins; Gate (movie). I’ll keep this short, I haven’t seen the series and although the movie made some sense as a standalone follow up, it was pretty dull not knowing the characters or what had gone before.
The last of the days new movies was one I had been waiting a long time for. Rebuild of Evangelion 3.0
I don’t really know where to start with this. If you’ve seen any of Evangelion before you think you know the story, but the ‘rebuild’ series was set to be theatrical releases bringing new events and characters into a new story arc. If you don’t already know, 3.0 takes place 14 years after the events of the second film, and completely turns what you already know of the series on it’s head. NERV is decimated, with Misato, Asuka et al taking up arms in a bizarre ship that turns into a fighter jet in an long battle scene that basically looks like Hideaki Anno let someone loose on a college 3D Studio MAX project.
Personally, my first thoughts were that I was extremely disappointed. There was a massive plot hole, new character Mari (from 2.0) had little extra explanation as to where she came from and brings nothing to the series other than another character to put on promo goods, but she’s obviously been welcomed on board, and there was a lot of ‘this happened because it did’. I won’t go into too much detail but my opinions pretty much reflect this Kotaku review which is full of spoilers, but absolutely hits the nail on the head – if characters had just explained to Shinji what was going on instead of acting like arseholes after going out of their way to ‘rescue’ him, it could have been a totally different and more pleasurable film. Lots of contradiction, lots of blatant holes and some very strange animation choices.
As the film progressed however, the focus on Shinji’s and Kaworu’s relationship provided an interesting arc, and I remembered that there is still a fourth movie on the way. When originally proposed, 3 and 4 were intended to be released as a double bill, so hopefully we’ll get a few more answers. Also, it would be pretty dull if the storyline was exactly the same, so it’s interesting to see an alternative story arc even if it means having to get over the fact that some of my favourite plot points from the series no longer exist, after all, I can always watch it through again.
Finally, the evening finished with a classic that needs no introduction (but just in case, it’s Akira :P).
Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, this was the first time I’d gotten to see Akira on the big screen. Granted, the manga is much better from a storyline POV, the movie captures your attention within the first couple of minutes, as Kaneda and co. take on the clowns in what is still one of the most gripping movie sequences to come out of Japan. The HD remaster of sound and vision is well worth the price of an admission ticket, and with the credits came time to go home.
It’s rare that we get to see much Japanese cinema at all on UK big screens, so being able to spend a full day watching anime was worth the dry eyes that followed, and hopefully with distributers like Anime ltd. making it their mission to extend distribution of their licenses to cinemas (digital projection making this much easier than it used to be) we’ll see a lot more of it in the future.